On Possible and Sustainable Futures
I’m neither pessimistic nor fatalistic by nature. That we should endeavor to soberly assess the way we have raised the planets temperature, destroyed thriving ecosystems for profit and compromised the biosphere with toxic chemicals; that we should critically evaluate whether our present political and economic systems are really capable of delivering us from the scourge of capitalist greed; that we should continue to resist fossil fuel, surveillance, war, and chemical corporations that put profit over people and the health of the planet—all of these latter efforts are both necessary and morally obligatory. But they are not, nor should they ever be considered as laying the groundwork for despair, pessimism or inertia. Quite the contrary.
The present neoliberal corporate capitalist world is certainly destructive, but it is by no means inevitable or invincible. Yes, it is a profound constraint on the possibility of a different future—but not one that we could not collectively overcome. A destructive economic system is only a constraint when we continue to buy into it—which far too many of us have because we believe there are no other options or we think we somehow benefit from it in a personal way.
The reality is that there literally millions of brilliant, creative people who are showing a different way forward and for the first time in many decades their voices are being heard. There are many possible better futures on the table waiting to come into being. These possible futures are not dependent technological fixes. Both naively utopian and pessimistically dystopian conclusions are disabling and distorting. They resolve the dissonance and remove the necessary tension that enables creative solutions and alternatives. They can shut down realistic on-the-ground efforts that dedicated people strive every day to realize despite the odds against them.
Here are some indisputable truths we might accede to going forward: We are not apart from or about nature. We are intimately dependent upon and connected to the earth and all living things. We are not innately selfish and ‘more is not better’. Infinite growth on a finite planet is a capitalist delusion. Everyone does not have ‘their own truth’. We will not reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The answer to problems on earth does not lie in colonizing space.
Overpopulation is not the problem: the greed of rich countries and the opulent business class who use up the planets resources and give nothing back is the problem. Neither the ‘market’ nor technology will give us answers about how to live sustainably. We are not ‘doomed’. Change will not be stress-free or easy. We will still experience tragedy, suffering and loss. But we will also experience, belonging, love, solidarity, friendship, discovery and all those creative efforts by so many people that help us to visualize and concretely realize a more caring and sustainable future.